Brussels, 10 Mar 2005
A new EU project aims to imitate nature to extract renewable energy without harming the environment. By studying plant photosynthesis the SOLAR-H project will carry out integrated research with the goal of producing hydrogen, which is considered one of the most promising forms of fuel for the future, from renewable resources.
Funded under the New and Emerging Science and Technology (NEST) priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), SOLAR-H brings together experts from five EU countries and Switzerland in fields ranging from genetics and molecular biology to biophysics and organo-metallic and physical chemistry.
'The vision is to develop novel, as yet unproven or even non-existing routes for H2 production from solar energy and water. In a unique effort, this project integrates, for the first time, two frontline topics - artificial photosynthesis in man-made chemical systems, and photo-biological H2 production using living organisms,' explain the project partners. 'Hydrogen production by these methods is still a long way off, but it has a vast potential and is of utmost importance for the energy-dependent European economy.'
With its breadth, the consortium will apply many different approaches simultaneously. The first team, headed by Peter Lindblad, an expert in physiological botany at Uppsala University in Sweden, will study living cyanobacteria, a type of alga. The alga's metabolism will be altered at genetic level so it can produce hydrogen without absorbing it at the same time.
Another team, headed by Stenbjörn Styring from the department of Biomimetics at Uppsala University, will study the mechanisms of natural photosynthesis at the biochemical level, while a third team led by a group of young scientists will synthesise the molecule complexes necessary to imitate the natural process.
A fourth group, led by synthetic chemist Leif Hammarström, will study rapid and complex reactions using a series of different physical methods of measurement. 'We think artificial photosynthesis has tremendous potential, even though it remains to be demonstrated. It's a scientific challenge, and if we succeed, the market will be gigantic,' stated Professor Hammarström.
It is hoped that the project will link fragmented European research and provide the critical mass of expertise needed to challenge and perform ahead of the US in this area, in preparation for the 'Hydrogen Society'.
For further information about SOLAR-H, please contact: